KEIPs v. KERPs: Court Shows Deference to Chapter 11 Companies to Defend Their Bonus Plans Under BAPCPA
By: Sumaya Restagno
St. John’s Law Student
American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff
Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”), Congress imposed strict limitations on payments made specifically to retain key employees of companies in chapter 11 bankruptcy and narrowed the circumstances under which these payments could be made through the addition of section 503(c). Under section 503(c)(1), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus to certain employees under a Key Employee Retention Plan (“KERP”) upon approval of the court and after a showing that certain required factors have been satisfied. Under section 503(c)(3), chapter 11 debtors may pay a bonus under a Key Employee Incentive Plan (“KEIP”) to certain employees after they attain certain measurable, difficult-to-reach milestones. Payments under a KEIP are described as being outside the ordinary course of business and are statutorily prohibited unless justified by the facts and circumstances of the case. Many courts have held this standard to be synonymous with the “business judgment” standard that governed KERPS prior to the BAPCPA which is not as strict as the test under 503(c)(1).